The Sounds of Summer    

By Sharon Merkel Prudhomme ~

Ahhhh summertime! I love the sounds and tastes of summer. They transport my mind back to sweet childhood memories! With the tasty smell and juicy dripping of a super ripe plum….I’m back on Mansion Beach, Block Island. Musty odors bring back glorious days of opening up the boat for spring at Erwin Marine, Red Bank-our home for summer till back to school in September.

Summer brings an orchestra of wonderful sounds which are all entertaining for those who really listen. Now that the heat is upon us, the all familiar daytime “chchchchchchc” builds to a crescendo in the trees around us. Many of these prehistoric-looking creatures emerge in August, some in June, but with high heats, it seems to bring them on stage a tad sooner for an early show! Cicadas, sometimes a single individual, often as a group, but always making a statement. These tree-dwelling August appearing little guys are known as Dog-Day Cicadas and are dark in color with green markings, clear veined wings and huge bulging eyes. Very cool looking in my opinion!

These Dog-Day Cicadas begin underground and remain there for 4-7 years! A female can lay 200-600 eggs in tree branches and bark. Once the eggs hatch, the larva falls to the ground, burrow and remain for years by sucking sappy juices from tree roots. Brown crusty Cicada resurface in evenings, climb out and up trees. Here they molt & climb out of their “skin” as an adult. These hardened molted shells are easy to find up & down the tree bases. I used to collect them and stick them on my wall above my desk as a kid. Friends thought I was odd when finding a line of marching shells along the inside of my Jeeps’ soft top! Ha! (I was an avid insect collector, much to the disgust of mom)

The ‘early show’ Cicadas are known as Periodical as these hatch out in early June every 14-17 years. Of course, different generations emerge each year…often a baby boom year hits and they’re everywhere! Periodical Cicadas are dark with red bulging eyes.

The chchchchchchch sounds are the males throwing out their best musical talents with hopes of attracting a mate. This loud sound is actually made by interesting drum-like plates on their underside that is rapidly vibrated. Hard to believe such a small insect could throw out such a robust sound! Some can be heard up to a mile away! It is said there are two Cicada sounds- one for danger, one for mates. After all the years of waiting and work to become an adult, these little creatures live for a whopping 5 weeks or so.

There are some 3,000 Cicada species and are found in Eastern North America, Central and South America. Some say the “noise” is horrible. I personally love the sounds of nature including bugs! Remember, they don’t bite, no threat…so enjoy our native musicians of the trees.

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